COLUMBUS — Despite the continuation of the recruiting dead period, Ohio State’s efforts on the trail came back to life in November.
With an uneven playing field and a pair of cancelled games, the Buckeyes have had their work cut out for them. But Ryan Day’s program has maintained its place among college football’s elite. As December begins, Ohio State is settled in as the country’s second-ranked 2021 recruiting class and already has the nation’s No. 1 class in 2022.
It was that class of 2022 that set the agenda in November, and the Buckeyes did pretty well when it came to hitting November’s recruiting to-do list.
Let’s take a look back and see exactly where things went right — or wrong — for Ohio State last month.
No. 1: Ohio State needs to lock in early commitment from Quinn Ewers
There was a rush of momentum toward a 5-star quarterback commitment when Quinn Ewers reopened his recruitment in late October, and it was a big deal for the Buckeyes to make that happen in as drama-free a way as possible.
The 2022 cycle is going to be a wild one on the recruiting trail as it seems the recruiting dead period is going to extend maybe into March of 2021. So opportunities to evaluate quarterbacks in person are going to be extremely limited. Ewers is about as can’t miss as prospects can get, and the Buckeyes did get to evaluate him in person two years ago, so they have more actual data on him than anyone else at the position.
The addition of Ewers on Nov. 19 gave Ohio State a huge name atop its 2022 class, and it wound up giving clarity to another 5-star prospect. Wide receiver Caleb Burton joined the Buckeyes class less than a week after his fellow Texan did.
The value of an early quarterback verbal is off the charts, and that’s why Ohio State landing Quinn Ewers in November means that the month was a success no matter what else happened. When the addition of Burton — and the momentum building off that pair of commitments — the future is set up for major 2022 success.
It also provided a huge first win on the recruiting front for first-year quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis, who has quickly become a valuable addition for the Buckeyes in that capacity.
No. 2: Buckeyes need get clarity on numbers
This bullet point was a bit vague, so clarity wasn’t going to be easy to identify. But it seems pretty clear that Ohio State is content signing just its 20 current commitments, if that is what ends up happening. The Buckeyes offered no new 2021 prospects and remain dialed in on just a quartet of players that they’ve been recruiting for more than a year: Emeka Egbuka, Tristan Leigh, J.T. Tuimoloau and Raesjon Davis.
That group, all 5-star prospects, seems pretty clearly to be the final stand in the 2021 class. That becomes important when considering that there were opportunities to add 2021 players in November and the Buckeyes chose not to.
With the first signing day period just about three weeks away, the Buckeyes could end up signing just 20 prospects. The numbers are definitely a concern, especially with the free year of eligibility for everyone on the current roster. The country’s most-talented prospects don’t pick schools to sit, and the roster makeup in 2021 — even with the annual rush of unexpected attrition we’ve seen year in, year out — doesn’t lend itself to taking late-in-the-recruiting-process risks.
No. 3: Ohio State needs to locate a 2021 offensive lineman
To the previous point, it appears the Buckeyes have made a decision that — barring a commitment from Tristan Leigh on Jan. 2 — no other offensive lineman was standing out as a necessary addition.
Maybe the free year of eligibility for the class of 2020 helps Ohio State stand pat at this position. But finding a way to pull off a big flip or somehow getting Tristan Leigh into the class would certainly be a welcomed outcome for the Buckeyes and would put them in position to win the 2021 recruiting “championship.”
The odds aren’t great for Ohio State to land Leigh as it seems Oklahoma is the favorite right now as it inches ahead of LSU. But with just three senior offensive linemen playing real minutes right now, maybe the need for the Buckeyes isn’t as great as it seemed earlier this season. Nicholas Petit-Frere has played well, but four games of starting tape may not provide the proof that NFL teams need to believe he’s ready for the next step yet.
Plus, the aforementioned eligibility retention means the program could have a potentially overwhelming number of linemen with freshman eligibility next year. Ohio State did sign six offensive linemen in the previous cycle, and only Harry Miller has really made an impact thus far from the four-man 2019 haul.